“Your Faith Doesn’t Make Sense!”
I heard this a few weeks back.
It doesn’t matter who said it, but I will say that it came from someone I have a great deal of respect for.
My reaction was that I had to not reply immediately (if at all)… I sincerely wanted to try and understand, outside of the ‘heat of the moment’, where that comment came from. I was not in the least offended by it; I was much more curious what prompted it. We were discussing religion (is that why we have the time-honored adage of never discussing either politics or religion among family and friends?), and the person that I was discussing it with stated various stances: ‘Religion is a private issue’, ‘Why do Christians always feel the need to evangelize those with other faith beliefs or no faith beliefs at all?’, ‘You don’t really believe that Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians go to hell, do you?’, ‘Jesus Christ is not the only way to heaven!’ and ‘I am a good person, and that’s enough’.
Starting at a high level, consider what truth is. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, it is defined thus:
1) Conformity to fact or actuality.
2) Fidelity to an original or standard.
3) Reality; actuality.
4) A statement proven to be or accepted as true.
5) Sincerity; integrity.
6) God… in that God is considered to be the epitome of truth, i.e., God = Truth.
If something is true, it cannot be false… it cannot not be true. If God is truth, then everything else about God derives from that fundamental premise: He is who He says He is, His Word is the truth, His promises can be depended upon, and what He says and does cannot be contradicted as illogical, immoral or counter-productive in any way.
That which is truth has no beginning and no end: hence the concept we have of God as an eternal (uncreated) being, who is outside of time as we understand time; He predates what is called ‘In the beginning…’. This is enforced by the very first verse of Holy Scripture:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
So we have God as an eternal being outside of time, the essence of truth in its most sublime and perfect definition. It follows from God as truth that what comes from God is also truth, therefore we have His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, as essential attributions of God’s divine nature. This is enforced a little further along in Genesis, where we see the communication between God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost (italic emphasis mine):
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
When Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent and fell from God’s grace into the pattern of sin, decay and death that was passed to all of their descendants, God in His compassion and love sent Jesus Christ into the world to pay the penalty of a horrific death to atone for our sins, so that we might enjoy His presence in heaven for all eternity… and how did Jesus Christ come into the world (italic emphasis mine)?
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Being truth Himself, Jesus Christ boldly testified to the truth… he declared Himself the fulfillment of prophecy, first to those in His hometown of Nazareth (italic emphasis mine):
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Then to the Jews who opposed Him, indicating His equality with God (italic emphasis mine):
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:54-58)
Finally to His Apostles, and to all of us (italic emphasis mine):
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:5-6)
Bear in mind that anyone could say the things that Jesus said… the “acid test” is therefore this… was Jesus proved accurate in what He said, and was He who He claimed to be: God Himself? With regard to the accuracy of what Jesus said, the historical record of the Gospels indicates with chilling detail what Jesus said would befall the city of Jerusalem:
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2)
This prediction came true in deadly fashion in 70 A.D., some 37 years following Jesus’ crucifixion outside Jerusalem’s city walls, when the Roman general Titus and 5 Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem, including the Temple, causing 1.1 million deaths as a result. The destruction of the Temple was so complete (bearing witness to Jesus’ statement that not one stone would be left upon another) that the individual stones were pried apart by the Roman soldiers to retrieve the gold that had melted between them when the Temple was burned.
With regard to fulfilled prophecy across the entire Holy Bible, it is a documented fact that approximately 1/3 of the Holy Bible is prophecy. About 2,500 different prophecies appear in the Holy Bible, (some 365 refer to the predicted coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah) of which some 2,000 or so have been fulfilled to the letter… this means a perfect track record: not 1 miss. The odds of all the prophecies being fulfilled without a single miss is less than 1 in 10 to the 2000th power… 1 followed by 2,000 zeroes. Also, not only are many of the prophecies attested to by extra-Biblical sources, such as by the Jewish historian Josephus, but geographical references in the Holy Bible (related or not related to all of the prophecies) line up perfectly with modern-day geographical references that have either been commonly agreed to down through the ages or independently confirmed by multiple excavations that have occurred.
The historical record of the Gospels provides many references to miracles done by Jesus during the period of His earthly ministry; these include healing the sick and maimed, driving out demons from people possessed by them, feeding thousands of people, and raising the dead to life. His greatest miracle? Rising from the dead following His death from crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, an event attested to by His Apostles who saw Him in the flesh for 40 days afterward, and by 500 of the faithful, before His ascension into heaven.
In my mind, the most able refute to those who, due to their stubborn pride, refuse to believe in Jesus Christ as exactly who He said He was, is offered by C. S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian authors of the 20th century:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” -C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
YES… Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
Insofar as being a ‘good person’ is concerned, I really don’t even want to go there, mostly because the very premise is, for lack of a better term, patently ridiculous. People are born with what can be charitably referred to as a ‘sin nature’… by that I mean our not being ‘good people’ is literally built into every person from conception onward: we do not have to be taught to covet, steal, hate, kill or do anything else that is sinful; it is a natural impulse:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3)
God has an opinion (the only opinion that matters) on the wickedness of humanity:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23)
What does neglect of God lead to? What we see all around us to this very hour: and there is no one who can refute this condition of humanity:
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
The New Testament reflects the Old Testament: humanity has not changed from the most ancient of times to the most modern of times… from the Psalms through Ecclesiastes through Isaiah through Romans, the depravity of humanity is painfully described:
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
It is nonsense to believe that laws can control the sinful nature of humanity. All that any law can do is to invite our attention to the sin that we commit: it cannot deliver us from the penalty for that sin that a just, pure, holy and righteous God demands. Does this leave humanity without a way forward? NO… it does not, but understand that it is only the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers in God and Jesus Christ that gives Christian believers the power to overcome sin in their lives: and even Christian believers are not free from committing sin; they are only free from committing sin as a pattern of life. The result of any truly honest evaluation of ourselves as a holy and just God sees us is that every mouth that would offer any argument to God that we are ‘good people’ must be silenced and the entire world held accountable to God.
NO… we are not ‘good people’, and being such is not enough.
It is a bold assertion, with the capability to anger many, that non-Christians will be condemned to hell; people offended by it wonder how Christians get to this viewpoint. It certainly is not a ‘warm and fuzzy’ notion. However, to pick this apart properly, one has to start with the premise that no one deserves an eternity in heaven, so everyone starts from that same point; all humanity is under the penalty of death for sin (so much for being a ‘good person’ to relieve anyone of this penalty, as God is not interested in your good deeds to make you blameless before Him: no one can use good deeds, or anything else, to come even remotely close to God’s standard of righteousness). Many say that a God of love would never condemn anyone (especially one that is a self-proclaimed ‘good person’ with numerous good deeds to their credit) to hell. What these many do not consider is that God is not only a God of love, but a God of justice. If God did not punish wrongdoing according to His capability to judge to a perfect objective standard of righteousness, He would not be God… and we would be angry with Him, because of His inability and/or unwillingness, to punish wrongdoing: especially wrongdoing against us. However, by this same argument, when we indulge in wrongdoing, we must expect that we would be judged by the very same yardstick others are judged by: and that is a consequence that nobody likes to entertain the possibility of.
It is an incorrect conclusion that many come to when they assert that it is wrong for God to condemn people to hell. I will agree… because God does not do that. Consider a person that has, as a conscious choice, lived a life away from God, refusing to acknowledge God or His Son Jesus Christ, and denying the atoning sacrifice for sin that Jesus Christ made for all people when He was crucified… God is not going to force that person to love Him or to accept the free gift of His Son’s death as the full payment for that person’s sin. However, what God is going to do when that person dies and stands before Him in judgment is give that person the desire of their heart, exactly what that person demonstrated in life was what was most desired: an eternity of separation from Him, saying to that person, in effect, “Thy will be done”.
God’s position is crystal clear:
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)
God’s warning is crystal clear (italic emphasis mine):
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
God’s punishment for the unrepentant is certain:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
YES… unbelievers will be condemned to hell.
Christians evangelize non-Christians not out of arrogance, but out of love because we know that we have the truth. That statement (… ‘we have the truth’) sounds exclusive, but it is a fact that not all religions have the truth: by the definition of truth, only one religion can have the truth, and that religion is Christianity… so why is Christianity the truth above any other religion? I can and do admit that Christianity would be just another religion in a plethora of many religions, were it not for one incontrovertible fact:
Jesus Christ rose from the dead
The Apostle Paul, in the book of Acts in Holy Scripture, describes what God has done, and what He will do (italic emphases mine):
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)
Paul did not declare his words with arrogance; before he spoke the above words to those in Athens, he said these words (italic emphasis mine):
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)
Even though the people in Athens did not know of Jesus Christ until Paul proclaimed Him to them, they knew innately of Him because they had erected an altar to Him, albeit to what they could only know at that time as an ‘unknown god’. We have the God of truth and His Son Jesus Christ, acknowledged or not, in us because we are created in God’s image:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
There is nowhere we can hide from God:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
Our salvation… which comes only through the atoning, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ… is a great gift (italic emphasis mine):
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)
The only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
Everyone… and I mean everyone… is welcome:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)
Therefore, we who have the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, salvation and eternal life for a broken, lost and dying world, do as we have been commanded by our Lord:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
YES… this is why Christians evangelize: because Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
If Christianity is the truth, that religion… that truth… must be proclaimed. People’s lives, both earthly and eternal, are at stake. The truth cannot be suppressed, as Holy Scripture attests (italic emphasis mine):
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:27-39)
It is useless for the world, which is against God, to attempt to thwart what God will do; if every human mouth is silenced, the testimony of God will prevail:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)
God’s purpose will stand:
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
NO… religion is not a private issue.
Christianity can be an emotional faith, and it can also be an intellectual faith. Either way, it is the one true faith… and it makes eminent sense.